What if the honeymoon years passed you by, and sex was never good?
How do you come to terms with the fact that you’ve missed out on something you can never get back?
Over the month of October I’m going to be talking about the different stages of sex in marriage, and we started this month with the “figuring things out” stage of sex–those first few years when things are new, and you’re getting adjusted to sex. Even if you had sex before you were married, things are still different now. Sex means something different. And often it changes.
I’m gearing up to talk about the years when life gets busy with little kids this Wednesday, but before we move on to that, I want to address a few more things about this early stage. Tomorrow we’ll be looking at 10 tips if she has never had an orgasm yet, but today I want to turn to this one: How can you process grief if you feel like you’ve lost time you’ll never get back?
On the comments to last week’s post, this theme came up several times. Here are just a few:
I grieve it daily it seems! It’s SUPER hard for me to get over (aka I’m nowhere close). I’ve been trying to pray about it and release it and give it to the Lord, but that deep deep feeling of mourning and loss just won’t go away. And me feeling like I’m getting old really quickly and like babies have just totally destroyed my body/shape isn’t helping. And the worst part is that I feel such resentment over it towards my husband…I blame him for being fat and not trying to attract/woo his new bride, and I also blame him for doing no research about why I wasn’t orgasming and thinking to himself “hmm, how can I become a better lover?” Instead, he basically thought “that sucks that she’s not orgasming. I wish she would. But there’s nothing I can do. Oh well, at least I am. I guess that’s just the way it’ll be”….I also find myself thinking that time is running out. If there’s no marriage and no sex in heaven, then this is our only chance to experience it!…But just knowing that this is our only chance to make sex great / the only time we’ll physically be young (& that lessens with each passing year and day) gives me serious FOMO!
I know that for me, two of the things that I struggle with the most in this is resentment and losing hope. It’s hard to not resent the fact that my husband has such an easy time with this, and honestly, not resenting that God made this so hard for women. And even though I know that I’ve made progress, I can’t help thinking that I should have beat this by now. It’s hard to keep hoping that sex will ever feel good for me, or that by the time I figure it out, my husband will have given up on it.
I’m now a mid 40’s loving faithful husband craving for affection and connection. We never made those fun memories you write about. Getaway weekends, marathons, exploring each other. Let alone just plain good ole’ sex. Where we should be right now is totally comfortable around each other and hitting those good old years of understanding each other. Yet we aren’t even close. Hope? Gone…Its not just about grieving the past and what we missed out on but knowing that with with every passing day…more time is lost. Grieving for the future is hard too.
There’s a very real feeling that you have lost something precious when sex during the newlywed period isn’t that great.
I’m not going to sugar coat it. When you’re young, you tend to be in better shape. Health problems haven’t impacted sex yet for most people. You have more energy and fewer responsibilities, so you’re in the best position to have those “sex marathons”. You look the best you likely ever will. Neither of you has put on the weight that’s likely to come over the next few years. In many ways, this is the ideal time to enjoy sex.
And yet, for so many of us (even most of us), the honeymoon stage is not that wonderful when it comes to sex. As I’ve said repeatedly, when I did the surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, the best years for sex in marriage are years 16-24. Yet our expectation that the early years of sex should be great can lead to such disappointment when they’re not.
It’s okay to grieve what you’ve lost–especially if the loss is significant.
I remember, about 10 years after I had married, sitting in the basement inside an empty house and just screaming. Like for Becky, sex had been so painful for me when I was first married, but I had been taught that my husband wouldn’t feel love and that I would be a failure if we didn’t have sex. So I forced myself through the pain, even though Keith told me I didn’t have to, because I was so scared of losing him and so scared of failing. And that set up a whole host of horrible repercussions with how Keith felt about sex and how I felt about sex. It took years to disentangle them. And when things finally were working well–every now and then that anger and rejection would creep back up, and I couldn’t get rid of it.
So I screamed. And screamed. And screamed.
I still feel so sad for young Sheila. And that’s one reason why I talk so much about vaginismus, or pain during intercourse. I want women to know that God does not expect you to endure pain just so your husband can feel loved. I want you to know that there are treatments. I don’t want anyone yelling in a basement, 10 years into their marriage, feeling so unimportant, as if you’re just a receptacle. Because that’s what it felt like for me, and that made the recovery so much harder.
Yes, there was a lot to grieve. There was anger to work through towards God, based not on what God said, but on bad teachings that I had heard growing up. Those teachings, combined with my physical pain, hurt me. They stole years of my life. If I had just gotten treatment properly, and if we had handled things properly, we would have been much further ahead much faster.
Nevertheless, I was still a fortunate one. For me, vaginismus did resolve once I was able to get over my trust issues with Keith, and once I was able to learn to control those muscles (I think it was primarily ballet that messed up my pelvic floor). For many of my readers, Becky, included, it has not resolved as quickly. So what would I say to you?
Separate the grief over losing your honeymoon years from the anger at God
Things don’t always go as we had planned. But sometimes the things that we have been taught as Christians make the honeymoon years even worse, and make us feel even worse, because we project onto God things that He never said. This anger can be due to two things:
Thinking that God was asking you to do something that was hurting you, even though God wasn’t
In my case, I thought the important thing was that I have intercourse, no matter what my experience. I didn’t understand that God didn’t want the act of intercourse; He wanted intimacy. For more on that, please read:
- We Need a New Definition of Sex
- 10 Times You’re Allowed to Say No to Sex
- The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex
But then there’s something even more common. I hear from so many women who have sex and it feels lousy, but they keep doing because they think it’s their duty. They don’t realize that it’s actually good for them to speak up and say, “you know, this should be good for me, too, and having one-sided sex is not what God intended, nor is it pleasing to God.”
It’s much harder to process the honeymoon grief if we think that God contributed to it by asking us to endure being used. Understanding that this is not His will at all can help you move forward.
Thinking that God was promising you great sex if you did everything right
Here’s something slightly different we may need to work through: Many churches and youth groups have taught young people that if they just do everything right, and if they wait for marriage for sex, then sex will be awesome. Then they get married and they feel cheated. They did their part of the bargain; why didn’t God do His?
However, God never promises that sex will be awesome right off the bat if you do things right. He asks us to wait for our own good (and I explain this in detail in The Good Girl’s Guide), but He doesn’t promise that. If we let go of this idea that God has cheated us out of something, it can be easier to deal with our disappointment, too.
It’s easier to grieve what was lost if you’re making progress.
One of the most common ways of emotionally derailing yourself is to develop black-and-white thinking: “It’s been terrible so far, so it will always be terrible. It will never get any better.”
On the contrary, if you can take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and tell yourself the truth, you can move forward.
My first few years were disappointing sexually, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of my marriage needs to be. I can still move forward. The future is not written yet.
Work through 31 Days to Great Sex together, which helps you talk about sex; figure out what feels good; deal with sexual baggage and other problems; build your emotional closeness; and so much more. Or, if you’re struggling to process trauma, seek out a licensed therapist. Get help and accountability for porn use. See a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Just don’t give up!
Do you yearn to have a more meaningful–and fun–sex life?
Let’s rethink the honeymoon years: Many people feel more confident, and more themselves, at 45 than they do at 25.
My biggest piece of advice, though, would be this: Do not assume that because the 20s have passed you by that your best years are behind you.
Believe me–most women especially feel far more confident and sexually themselves at 38 or 45 or 50 than they do at 25. Your body may not be as good as it was then, but confidence counts for so much more! I feel more myself now. I feel as if Keith and I have grown into the type of people we were meant to be. We didn’t know yet who we were back then. To think that sex is going to be the best when you’re still relatively immature; when you don’t know each other as well; when you aren’t as confident in yourself–well, it’s not realistic. It’s okay if sex gets better later!
Let’s be great sex ambassadors and help others.
And now, one more word of encouragement. Tell others who are just getting married now that sex does not have to be amazing right off the bat. But also tell them that it likely won’t be amazing if they don’t speak up for what they want. It won’t be amazing if they don’t stress their own pleasure (if they’re women). It’s going to be a learning curve, so be sure to make it into a fun research project! Suggest that engaged people get The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex or take my Honeymoon Course to learn how to start off well (and hopefully prevent a lot of these problems).
Are you ready for the honeymoon you always dreamed of?
The Honeymoon Course is here to help you plan the perfect honeymoon and start your marriage (and your sex life!) off with laughter, joy and fun!
Don’t make the same mistakes other couples have–get it right from the beginning!
We surveyed our email list (are you on it yet?) a month or so ago to see what people wanted to hear more about. And one thing that came out of that survey was that people who bought The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex were 1.3 times likely to be satisfied in their sex life, and 1.5 times more likely to be satisfied in their marriage, than those who had not. It seems to have a protective effect, especially on newlyweds (which makes me feel amazing!). So encourage people to get good information!
I know when sex doesn’t go as planned in the first few years it can feel like you’ve lost something you can never get back.
But maybe if we keep things in better perspective, seeing sex as a journey that you take together, that’s a decades-long adventure, we’ll be further ahead. I get the disappointment. I do. But don’t give up! God wants you to have great intimacy, and I do believe that most couples, with the right attitudes, can eventually get there.
What do you think? Did you have anything to grieve over with your honeymoon years? Let’s talk in the comments!